From gray to green – biking through Germany’s former industrial heartland
In the second part of our bike blog, Maurice Jurke, who’s part of the WWF’s bike tour across Germany, takes up the story as he encounters some strenuous uphill stretches (the good thing about those, as he points out, is rolling down), sweats it out in the summer heat and cycles through Germany’s former coal-fired industrial heartland which has now been rejuvenated into a green area.
It’s 3:20 pm and I am sitting in a small café in the inner city of Hamm in the western German state of North-Rhine Westphalia. It’s quite well known in Germany and so I expected a big town with and a landscape dominated by the color gray. But as so often this year, I was wrong. Instead, I cycled on a wonderful route from Gütersloh to Hamm.
During the day, I barely rode on streets since a large part of the stretch wound through fields and large forests. I began at 10:15 as usual and I had hoped to arrive after 60 kilometers and 3 1/2 hours. But again I was proven wrong. Literally. I took some wrong turns, and so I had to ride 70 kilometers over several mountains, and arrived after 4 hours. Still a good number, but I was not very happy with my day. It was too hot and I am really thankful for my ice cream and my ice-cooled coke which I’m sipping at the moment. Still, it was a good day, it just could have been better. Well, I hope you had a perfect day. Me? I’m going to take a bath to cool down some more.
Let’ s go gray…uhh I mean green
Another day of biking through Germany and the direction is still south-west. From Hamm, we passed Dortmund and Duisburg, and now we’re visiting Langengeld, a small village at the border of Düsseldorf.
In the last three days, we’ve cycled past plenty of places in Germany’s old industrial heartland in the west. It’s called the Rhein- and Ruhrgebiet in German. There you’ll find big industrial companies and lots of mines and old coal pits. As Germany tries to change its energy policy, increasingly moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy, coal is no longer a big player.
So you’ll find many old, abandoned and derelict coal mines. In some of these places, city authorities are trying to transform them into old people’s homes. Once gray and polluting, these unpopular mines are being upcycled and are a jewel in the inner cities.
That means almost our entire bike route now goes through parks or forests, occasionally cut by some highways or an inner city. Germany, in this regard, has developed well, we think.
And here’s a personal question: what do you think of this development in Germany’s former industrial areas? Have the cities been successful? Would you want to live in this former gray area, which has now painted itself in green?
DateAugust 7, 2013